can land banking be used to stimulate social capital spur economic development?

pa-land-bank

“A land bank…can acquire, hold and assemble parcels of land for development, green space, or public works projects,” Smart Growth America, smartgrowthamerica.org

The idea of land banking is not new; Pennsylvania signed into act HB 1682 in 2012 allowing governments in the state to create land banks to combat urban blight, manage vacant properties, and spur redevelopment. St. Louis is known for having the first land bank in the 1970s; the city uses land banking as a fiscal tool to stimulate development. Flint, Michigan has used its land bank to develop a mixed use building in the heart of the city and turning over foreclosed properties to non-profit agencies.

Among using land banking as a smart growth tool and economic development tool, land banking should be used to spur social capital. Creating social capital, or the collective, shared value within a society greater than simple economic capital, could be in many forms: urban agriculture gardens, park space, or shared community space with commercial potential, etc. If a vacant parcel was given back to the community through land banking, the uses are (almost) limitless. Although the idea of quick capital gaining ideas, like housing or commercial developments, are the most popular, other options, like those mentioned above, could give way for future development nearby, while still giving the community a public space.

The neighborhood of Beltzhoover in Pittsburgh proposed an urban agriculture system, ReStore, that stems from Pittsburgh’s vacant parcels in land banks. The Los Angeles County Board approved allowing tax breaks for vacant parcel land owners to lease out their land for the purposes of urban farming. Both of these ideas sound viable, but what if they could be combined?

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